You get value for money with Northern Broadsides: a big cast, a play with a big theme and music as well as dancing.
The romp in the third quarter, with Irish jig and line dancing, might offend some purists, but Shakespeare too would probably have used whatever audience pleasers were to hand.
More importantly, the lines are spoken with a pace and clarity that carries the audience right into the action.
Mercifully, Northern Broadsides has abandoned the exaggerated accents of the past.
Director Conrad Nelson smoothly integrates the adaptations necessary for playing in the round into the company’s established routines.
His additions, for example the candles, bells and motet scene at the end, made for particularly effective theatre.
As Leontes, Conrad Nelson is a convincing victim to a sudden bout of murderous jealousy.
Had it been anyone else, someone would have brought him to his senses with a bucket of cold water, but he has power, so people’s lives are ruined by his delusions.
The first half of this production was stronger than the second, largely because of the quality of the verse speaking.
Hannah Barrie, as Hermione, delivered her lines beautifully and gave a splendid performance as the vulnerable, yet resilient, Queen. The director had rightly decided that there is no point in trying to make her statue come alive in a realistic way at the end, so she simply steps down from her plinth.
Probably the best piece of casting in the play is Ruth Alexander Rubin as Paulina. Totally convincing, she embodies the voice of reason. I was sitting four rows back and felt the force of her personality.
Strange how a play can suddenly emerge from its normal obscurity.
Besides NorthernBroadside’s version, there is also a recent ballet adaptation and a Kenneth Branagh production is soon to play at the Garrick Theatre.
Perhaps there is some mechanism in the minds of theatre people which says, “Time for that one.”
The Winter’s Tale runs at the Stephen Joseph Theatre until Saturday October 24. Performances are today at 1.30pm and 7pm, tomorrow at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
The first season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company Live promises an exceptional series of plays broadcast to cinemas from London’s Garrick Theatre over the course of a year.
Dame Judi Dench and Branagah star in The Winter’s Tale screened at the Stephen Joseph on November 26 at 7pm
Review by Mike Tilling